Probiotics…Wanted Dead or Alive

The “Wanted dead or alive?” debate rages on in the world of probiotics and microbiome research. Functional medicine MD’s like myself already apply microbiome principles in the care of our patients. On the other hand, many detractors in conventional medicine claim that the probiotics we swallow in capsules either cross the threshold of our mouths already dead or die in our stomachs. They proclaim that dead bacteria can’t help our guts. This research along with many others contradict their complaints by showing how even a dead probiotic strain prolonged the lives of roundworms in this study.

Wake Forest School of Medicine scientists used a roundworm model to test the effects of various probiotic strains on the worm’s health. They began with the working hypothesis that aging organisms experience increasing amounts of intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut and this “leakiness” contributes to the organisms aging and degeneration. They used the worms as their short 11-20 days life span make the study easier to perform in a short period of time.

One strain of bacteria, Lactobacillus paracasei (D3-5) stood out as causing the worms to live longer on average. This effect remained whether the bacteria were fed dead or alive. They then tested the bacteria on mice and found it “high fat diet-induced metabolic dysfunctions, decreased leaky gut and inflammation, and improved physical and cognitive functions.” They attributed the benefits to a portion of the bacterial cell wall called lipoteichoic acid.

How might we discern which bacteria will benefit us in the human colon? How do we discern whether living or dead bacteria are better? Indiscriminate probiotic ingestion, trusting either the pharmaceutical or nutraceutical industries, may or may not benefit your leaky gut or your lifespan. After spending time with patients, evaluating their history, physical and lab results, we can narrow the list of appropriate probiotics to provide personalized answers.

For the general public, especially those without symptoms or illness, we cannot be as specific unless we spend time with them. However, we can safely say that the majority of people can benefit from higher fiber intake and avoidance of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. Ingesting some fermented foods on a regular basis also encourages gut health and there is no doubt that ingesting a low inflammatory diet is good for all.

Finding a trusted source of medical guidance to help you narrow down these recommendations further comes next. At Sanctuary, we strive to share that kind of discerning wisdom with our patients and our readers. Empowering others to steward their gift of health enables them to maintain the healthier more abundant life.

Original Article
Shaohua Wang, Shokouh Ahmadi, Ravinder Nagpal, Shalini Jain, Sidharth P. Mishra, Kylie Kavanagh, Xuewei Zhu, Zhan Wang, Donald A. McClain, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Dalane W. Kitzman, Hariom Yadav. Lipoteichoic acid from the cell wall of a heat killed Lactobacillus paracasei D3-5 ameliorates aging-related leaky gut, inflammation and improves physical and cognitive functions: from C. elegans to mice. GeroScience, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s11357-019-00137-4

Thanks to Science Daily:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Dead probiotic strain shown to reduce harmful, aging-related inflammation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2019. <>.

Probiotics and Insulin Resistance:
Ahmadi S, Nagpal R, Wang S, Gagliano J, Kitzman DW, Soleimanian-Zad S, Sheikh-Zeinoddin M, Read R, Yadav H (2019) Prebiotics from acorn and sago prevent high-fat-diet-induced insulin resistance via microbiome-gut-brain axis modulation. J Nutr Biochem 67:1–13.
Bagarolli RA et al (2017) Probiotics modulate gut microbiota and improve insulin sensitivity in DIO mice. J Nutr Biochem 50:16–25.

Intestinal Permeability and Health:
Allaire JM, Crowley SM, Law HT, Chang SY, Ko HJ, Vallance BA (2018) The intestinal epithelium: central coordinator of mucosal immunity. Trends Immunol 39:677–696.
Konig J et al (2016) Human intestinal barrier function in health and disease. Clin Transl Gastroenterol 7:e196.
Probiotics and Modulating the Gut Microbiome:
Azad MAK, Sarker M, Li T, Yin J (2018) Probiotic species in the modulation of gut microbiota: an overview. Biomed Res Int 2018:9478630.

Probiotics and Inflammation:
Buford TW (2017) (Dis)Trust your gut: the gut microbiome in age-related inflammation, health, and disease. Microbiome 5:80.

Probiotics and Metabolic Health/Obesity:
Dao MC et al (2016) Akkermansia muciniphila and improved metabolic health during a dietary intervention in obesity: relationship with gut microbiome richness and ecology. Gut 65:426–436.

Age and Intestinal Health:
Elderman M et al (2017) The effect of age on the intestinal mucus thickness, microbiota composition and immunity in relation to sex in mice. PLoS One 12:e0184274.
Hodes RJ et al (2016) Disease drivers of aging. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1386:45–68.
Nagpal R et al (2018a) Gut microbiome and aging: physiological and mechanistic insights. Nutr Healthy Aging 4:267–285.
Schiffrin EJ, Morley JE, Donnet-Hughes A, Guigoz Y (2010) The inflammatory status of the elderly: the intestinal contribution. Mutat Res 690:50–56.
Shimizu Y (2018) Gut microbiota in common elderly diseases affecting activities of daily living. World J Gastroenterol 24:4750–4758.
Vemuri R et al (2018) Gut microbial changes, interactions, and their implications on human lifecycle: an ageing perspective. Biomed Res Int 2018:4178607.
Gut Health and Psychiatric Disorders:
Kelly JR, Kennedy PJ, Cryan JF, Dinan TG, Clarke G, Hyland NP (2015) Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Front Cell Neurosci 9:392.

Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease:
Mu Q, Kirby J, Reilly CM, Luo XM (2017) Leaky gut as a danger signal for autoimmune diseases. Front Immunol 8:598.

Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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